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What happens when pediatricians join forces with pizza store managers, school principals, city health clinic directors, and others to better reach and serve their common base of customers: families with young children?
Together, they did what they could not have accomplished on their own. They offered a highly valued, emotionally-loaded, and media-attracting service AND increased foot traffic into their stores and offices: "I Am Loved" free immunizations for kids on Saturdays just before school started.
Pediatricians gave immunization shots at convenient times in a roomy, cheerful children's store with a party atmosphere, where the kids were the center of attention. Parents heard about the offer through all the participating outlets and received free snack coupons after the kids received their shots so they could reward their children with a snack from a nearby store. Partners could provide better, more news-catching service at less cost and inspire greater community and customer loyalty -- while spending less.
This is not an isolated incident.
Here's another success story. On a recent Valentine's Day, several neighborhood businesses -- including a women's medical clinic, florist, health food store, clothing boutique, shopper newspaper, museum store, gym, bookstore, and beauty salon -- joined forces for a month-long promotion to attract and serve women. The bookstore hosted a series of "Beauty Inside Out" in-store demonstrations and mini-seminars, each led by a manager of one of the participating businesses and highlighting a book collection and the local partners' related products and services.
Each presenter offered a handout that also included reference to at least one of the other cross-promoting organizations, plus a joint offer of services with one of them. Each presenter wrote a guest column based on their presentation, which was featured in the shopper newspaper, with the author's follow-up offer and email noted at the bottom of the article. Of course each column author quoted others in this mutually beneficial alliance.
What's the lesson here?
You don't have to work alone when you attempt to market your products, services, or cause. It is not as much fun nor as credible or efficient. Regardless of the size or kind of business (or nonprofit or government agency) you operate, you can grow it faster, not through "solo" networking, advertising, or other promotional efforts, but through cross-promotion with others.
Look for other successful, non-competing businesses, clubs, and government agencies that also serve your kind of client. Propose ways you can improve how you contact or service your "mutual market" together.
RELATED: Five Questions to Ask Yourself Before Partnering
Instead of solo advertising, the Valentine's Day group joined forces to offer a combined service that naturally pulled their customers in. The partners' keys to success were a common market, non-competing products or services, shared values, and comparably valuable resources to contribute to the cross-promotion. Partners created a "passion bond" relationship with each other, their customers, and many others who didn't even need shots but were motivated to try the partners' services anyway.
All kinds and sizes of organizations are enthusiastically adopting this outreach approach. Cross-promotional marketing is a growing trend because it is perhaps the least expensive, most efficient, least time-consuming, and most-credible method for growing an organization. Simply put, cross-promotional marketing is the act of strategically aligning businesses that target the same market but do not directly compete with each other.
Cross-promoting provides a growth opportunity for any organization, from the home-based, to the public sector, corporate, or franchise operation.
Another Easy Example
A dry cleaner attached a lucite box to the front of the cash register to hold coupons worth $3 off the customers' next tank of gas at a nearby gas station / convenience store. The convenience store operator placed a similar box, displaying coupons worth $3 off the customer's next dry cleaning. That proved so successful that they recruited more partners and offered customers additional value: coupons from their cross-promoting at a nearby hardware store, beauty salon, fitness gym, and shoe repair shop.
The Profitable Results?
Their partnering businesses' coupons build loyalty from their existing customers. They can appear where their competition isn't even in sight. And they don't have to pay for the position -- they trade for it. Nothing beats the credibility of another business touting your product's differentiating benefit. Partners reach more prospective customers at a lower cost. Prospects are introduced to each business in a powerful way -- through vendors they already use. Using your imagination, familiarity with your customers, and the right cross-promotion, your can outwit companies with massive promotional budgets.
Here are some low-risk and high-opportunity ways to jump-start your first cross-promotion.
1. Print joint promotional messages on your bills.
2. Offer a reduced price, special service, or convenience if customers buy services or products from you and your partner.
3. Hang signs or posters promoting one another on your walls, windows, or products.
4. Mention one another's benefits when you speak at local events or are interviewed by the media.
5. Show the joint use of your services and their benefit on the health of patients
6. Pool mailing lists and send out a joint promotional postcard.
7. Promote your partners' products during their slow times, and ask them to do the same for you.
8. Share inexpensive ads in local shopping papers or a nonprofit event program.
9. Give a joint interview to local media.
10. Put one another's promotional messages on Lucite stands on counters or floor stands in waiting areas.
11. Encourage your staff to mention how your partner's products can be used with yours.
12. Give your partner's product to your customers when they buy a large quantity of your product, and ask your partner to do the same.
13. Use door hangers, posters, flyers, or postcards to promote special offers for one another's products.
14. Co-produce an in-store or other event, demonstration, celebrity appearance, free service, or lecture.
Kare Anderson is an Emmy winning former Wall Street Journal reporter and author of SmartPartnering. She is the publisher of the international "Say It Better" (tm) E-Zine. Visit her web site for more information.